Protests gain forest some time

In response to protests from local residents and parliamentary deputies in the ruling PASOK party, the government yesterday withdrew a legislative amendment that would allow the Church of Greece to build a vast conference center within one of the few remaining forests on the outskirts of Athens. Environment and Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou said, however, that the amendment would be included in another bill and that it had been withdrawn only because local authorities and residents had not been properly briefed. «We did not inform (them) properly and we will do that,» she said. The minister met earlier with Cabinet secretary Socrates Cosmidis, apparently to discuss the opposition from members of Parliament. The bill was to let the Church build up to 67,000 square meters on a 2.7-hectare plot within the forest at Aghios Ioannis Kareas, on the slopes of Mount Hymettus on the capital’s eastern edge. The building will host sessions of the Church’s ruling body, the Holy Synod, as well as religious conferences and cultural activities.